Advantages & Disadvantages of Cross Breeding Dogs

Cross-breeding dogs is popular right now, but is it ethical? Take a look at the pros and cons of this practice.

Updated February 26, 2024
Group of dogs

Cross-breeding, and breeding in general, is quite controversial in the dog world for a list of reasons. Before you breed your dog, it's important to ensure you're ready for such a responsibility. Whether you're crossbreeding dogs or mating purebred pups, it's not a decision to be taken lightly. 

What Is Cross-Breeding?

brown medium sized labradoodle dog in a field

Cross-breeding means you're mating two dogs of different breeds together. For example, a standard poodle and a labrador retriever are among the most popular crossbreeds, commonly called a labradoodle.

You can potentially breed any combination of dog breeds together or purebred dogs with mixed-breed dogs, as dogs are all the same species. It's sometimes hard to imagine that dogs are all the same species when considering the variety of shapes, sizes, colors, and personalities. The pug and great dane, for example, seem to be entirely different from one another. But they're both part of the same species.

What's the Argument?

The practice of cross-breeding can be exciting to some and upsetting to others. On the one hand, breeders of purebreds tend to consider these dogs to be 'mutts'. On the other hand, lovers of crossbred dogs argue they are adding vigor to the genetics of breeds they believe have been bred too closely for generations.

Which side is right? That can be difficult to determine. However, there are advantages and disadvantages to cross-breeding, and it's good for potential dog owners and breeders to be aware of them.

What About Other Species?

Dogs can be bred with a few other species to produce what is known as a "hybrid." Species they can breed with include wolves, dingoes, coyotes, and golden jackals. Their offspring are known as interfertile, which means they share enough DNA and biology in common to breed and produce litters. 

Need to Know

Other members of the genus Canis can't breed with domestic dogs, including foxes, African wild dogs, and side-striped and black-backed jackals.

Weighing the Pros and Cons of Cross-Breeding

Before we talk about the pros and cons, it's important to note that they must be weighed carefully as you review each.

The Argument for Cross-Breeding

First, let's take a look at the positive aspects of cross-breeding. People who are strictly interested in purebred dogs often overlook these points, but there are some benefits of mixing two breeds. 

Unique Appearance

Some dog lovers prefer a dog that doesn't look like any other breed they know, and cross-breeding can certainly produce such a dog. Combining two different breeds is a coin toss as to how the genetics will combine. This means that each puppy in a litter can look different from their littermates, leading to a very interesting-looking litter. 

A Mix of Personality Traits

You can get the best of both worlds with a mix of personality traits. Since the goldendoodle is so popular, I'll use them as an example. The golden retriever is one of America's most popular dog breeds, and for good reason. They're loyal, affectionate, outgoing, and will gladly follow you along for any activity.

Then there's the poodle. Poodles are intelligent and hypoallergenic. So, you end up with an adorable mixed dog breed that produces fewer allergens than others and has a high level of intelligence and an awesome personality. 

Fewer Congenital Issues in Some Cases

It's true that many purebred dogs suffer from genetic conditions passed from one generation to the next. Responsible cross-breeding may lower the chances of passing on a particular condition if only one parent is a carrier. There's an often-repeated belief that mixed-breed dogs have "hybrid vigor" and are healthier than purebred dogs.

In truth, it's difficult to say one way or another if purebred versus mixed breed life expectancy differs significantly. Purebred dogs are more likely to suffer from genetically inherited conditions, but this does not automatically mean that mixed-breed dogs live longer.

May Become Foundation for a Future Pure Breed

Keep in mind that many of today's purebred dogs were founded on crosses of different breeds, and they have been refined through selective breeding to produce the consistent characteristics they display today. Some of today's crosses could evolve into tomorrow's pure breeds if breeders organize themselves and follow a specific plan to make that happen. 

Need to Know

The cockapoo (cocker spaniel and poodle mix) is one example of cross-breeding that demonstrates this potential.

The Argument Against Cross-Breeding

Now it's time to consider some of the potentially negative aspects of cross-breeding. Many crossbreeders downplay the significance of these points, but they are still worth considering.

Difficult to Predict Temperaments

Purebreds have been developed for different purposes, and their temperaments match those purposes closely. For example, some dogs were bred to be guard dogs and often have bold personalities, whereas others were bred solely to be companion dogs. It's difficult to determine the personality traits their puppies would have.  

Hard to Predict Adult Size

Size really can be an issue for some potential owners, especially if they live in a small home with limited yard space. If both parents are similar in size, you can expect the pups to be about the same size as adults. However, it would be extremely difficult for the average pet owner to predict the ultimate size of a cross between a doberman and a Boston terrier, for example.

Mixed Breed Puppies

Potential for High-Risk Deliveries

From a pregnancy perspective, breeding dogs of different sizes can sometimes lead to difficult deliveries. This is especially true if the male dog is significantly larger than the female, or if the male comes from a large-headed breed. Female dogs of different breeds may have a harder time birthing the pups, and she may even require a C-section in order for her and her mixed-breed puppies to survive.

Still a Strong Chance for Congenital Health Issues

Many congenital health issues, like hip dysplasia, eye diseases, epilepsy, and kidney disease, are found across multiple breeds. This means these conditions are still likely to show up in crossbred pups if both parents are carriers of one or more of the same genetic problems.

May Be More Expensive Than a Purebred

With all the interest in "designer dogs," some mixed-breed dogs go for $1,000 or more. The average purebred puppy often costs less, unless they're an extremely popular or rare breed. A designer dog may also come with papers, but they will not be from more respected organizations like the American Kennel Club or United Kennel Club.

Common Cross-Breed Dogs

Cross-breed dogs, whether bred purposefully or by accident, are very popular in the U.S. Some of the most popular designer dogs include the labradoodle, goldendoodle, bernadoodle, puggle, chorkie, and cavachon. Poodles, in particular, are a favorite breed for use in cross-breeding, most likely because of the combination of hypoallergenic fur, likable temperaments, and impressive intelligence. 

The Argument for Mixed Breeds at Shelters

The cross-breeds you see above were once considered "mutts" and were also in shelters. In my opinion, quite a few of the breeds found at the shelters will become "designer dogs," if they aren't already. 

Cross-Breeding Is a Complicated Issue

Do the disadvantages of dog breeding really outweigh the advantages? It's difficult to say, as there are a number of pros and cons to cross-breeding our dogs. Some argue that it is bad to cross-breed dogs, while others argue that cross-breeding is a good thing. There are also advantages and disadvantages to pure breeding. The fact that there are both positives and negatives only fuels the controversy. All in all, the most important factors involve whether you're breeding for the right reasons, if you have the financial means to do so, and the amount of time and effort you're able to put into mom and her pups. 

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Advantages & Disadvantages of Cross Breeding Dogs